Had/played (a) guitar ???? I'm confused 1) "play guitar" or "play a guitar"??
2) One person told me if we say "John had a guitar" it also means "John played a guitar". Is it true? 
May 26, 2018 9:39 AM
Comments · 9
Phil: "I didn't invent English; I just teach it"

It's a pity, otherwise maybe english would be more logical ... ;)

May 26, 2018

1) One plays the guitar. Sometimes in informal speech, we just say "He plays guitar."

2) Having a guitar and playing the guitar are not the same. If someone says that John had a guitar, all it means is that a guitar was in his possession. It does not mean that he played it or that he knows how to play the guitar. He may have stolen his friend's guitar. 

May 26, 2018
If English were more logical, I might be out of business ;)
May 26, 2018

Serg: As Guyomar and Maureen mention, we say "the guitar" to talk in general terms. I realize it doesn't make sense; it's just idiomatic. So, Jack's comment, while counter-intuitive, is actually more or less correct (without getting into a long explanation). "A guitar" means "one (specific) guitar."

I didn't invent English; I just teach it ;)

May 26, 2018

Serg, usually, you are correct. We say that "She's reading a book." when we don't know which one or we don't care to specify which it is. We use "the" to specify a particular book, to distinguish it from other choices, for example, "She's reading the book her sister gave her for her birthday."

With musical instruments, we generally use "the" when we're describing having this skill and the process.

He plays the piano very well and the guitar poorly.

He was playing the flute when his brother kicked open the door.

She knows how to play the violin.

She's been playing the harp since she was 10.

I can think of a few circumstances where we would use "a" or "the" for further specificity about the instrument. Here's the difference:

1) He's playing the new piano. (I can imagine using this if there is an old piano and a new one in a rooom, and we want to specify that's he's playing the new one right now.)

2) He's playing a new guitar. (Here there aren't any other guitars present, so we don't use "the", since the purpose isn't to specify which guitar is being played out of many. We're talking about some attribute of the instrument being used, so we use "a" + attribute (color, size, age, other quality...))

May 26, 2018
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